According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth had surgery on his broken left wrist Monday morning. Very few details were provided, but Ladson did say via Twitter:
“He will be out for more than six weeks. I was told at least 12 weeks.”
Obviously, this is a very big blow for the first-place Nationals. According to the timetable laid out by Ladson, Werth will be unavailable through July. That’s a long time to miss your No. 5 hitter.
So far this season, the Nats have persevered without Michael Morse at all, Ryan Zimmerman for roughly three weeks and Adam LaRoche the past week. They’ve made do using spare parts, past-their-primes and rookie call-ups. But this injury could change everything.
With Werth’s injury, the Nats are looking at a Xavier Nady/Roger Bernadina platoon in left, while still trotting out Rick Ankiel’s .311 OBP in center every night. Nady has two extra-base hits in 62 plate appearances, Bernadina a .308 OBP. That’s just not going to cut it. Tyler Moore could help with the bat, but it’s apparent the Nats don’t think he’s capable of playing Major League defense.
Moore was not even mentioned as a possibility by Davey Johnson following Sunday’s game, while Steve Lombardozzi and even Chad Tracy’s names were thrown out there as potential fill-ins in left.
The Nationals are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the N.L. at the start of play on Monday. But the Atlanta Braves are just a half-game back. Sure, it’s the first week of May and talk of the playoffs is silly and premature. But to make the playoff you have to play well for six months, and the Nats just put one month of that in their back pockets.
Washington has the best pitching staff in the league, allowing just 2.93 total runs per game. They are second in the league in strikeouts per nine innings, fourth in fewest walks per nine. This is a pitching staff that keeps teams from going on long losing streaks.
The offense has mostly limped their way along, but looking at the underlying numbers they are sixth in the N.L. in total base runners. Those are numbers that will support scoring at least a league average number of runs, once they get their power hitters back and healthy. Zimmerman and LaRoche are expected back this week and will provide a dramatic boost to the offense.
Bryce Harper is contributing to the offense on a nightly basis with his plate discipline and hustle so far; the power will come. He’s already tied for fourth on the team in doubles in just 33 plate appearances.
The Nats shouldn’t waste the opportunity the first five weeks of play have afforded them. This team was built with the idea of being competitive this season and legitimately challenging for the playoffs in 2013. But Harper’s here already and is a factor. They have pitching to fill in after Stephen Strasburg reaches his innings limit. They probably needed another bat before Werth got hurt, but this only exacerbates the problem.
The Nats should dig into their reserve of future talent and get some more help for this team right now. Baseball’s a funny game. You keep waiting around for chances and you might never get one.